Monroe Councilman Tom Callahan said he had “nothing to apologize for” in response to a pair of citizen comments at last week’s Monroe City Council meeting that criticized his previous statements about wearing masks.
At the council’s July 14 meeting, during discussion about a possible mandatory mask ordinance, Callahan said government should not require masks and people who feel threatened should decide for themselves if they wish to wear a mask in public. Callahan also said he has not worn a mask in public and has never felt threatened to do so.
“I disagree with telling people to wear masks,” Callahan said. “The next thing you do, you’ll be telling people to wear scarves around their head.”
Some residents have taken his comment about scarves to be anti-Islamic and offensive.
In comments sent to council, resident Kristen Carlson said she had no problems with Callahan’s position on the mask ordinance that failed to pass. “... (B)ut to tell those who disagree with him to ’stay in their basements’ and likening mask policies to our government requiring ’we all wear scarves on our head’ progresses a bigoted and divisive ideology in a government assembly.”
She said to Mayor Jason Frentzel, “(W)e are ready to put this unfortunate incident behind us and ask that you hold Councilman Callahan to the standard that Monroe and its residents deserve - free from bigotry, racism and xenophobia.”
Another resident, Jonathan Carlson, also requested his comments to be read into the record.
“For a man that I would assume believes mainstream media is ’fake news,’ you have given the news media more comments on this matter than your own constituents,” he said. “For someone who I’d bet considers himself a true patriot, you didn’t even stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in the last council meeting.”
Callahan said he would not respond and that few in the community are upset by his comments. Callahan said he was in business for more than 30 years and gave pacifiers to people he considered “crybabies,” and he showed pacifiers to council during its virtual meeting last week. He also showed two larger pacifiers that he said were for council members Todd Hickman and Christina McElfresh.
Frentzel said he did not condone Callahan’s comments but that there was no reason to remove him from council, although state law does have a recall procedure that citizens could seek.
Callahan said he went to a military school as he grew up, and people there were all treated the same.
“There’s nothing to apologize about,” Callahan said. “To me, absolutely nothing. I don’t care. I’m going to tell it like it is. If you don’t like it, there’s the road. Hit the road.”
After showing the pacifiers, Callahan said, “I don’t care, but I’m not racist. I’m not supposed to say nothing, and I did, and I might have gone too far.”
Hickman said Callahan should avoid making further comments so the situation doesn’t become more heated.
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